Grand designers Gwyn and Kate ap Harri took a leap into the unknown, rescuing a local old cinema in their home town and transforming it into a family house.
All that remains of the former Kensington Palace Cinema is the original facade, to which Gwyn and Kate added the diving-board overhang
The couple, pictured here with their sons Jac and Dylan, were persuaded by designer Jeremy Southgate to use unfinished materials
When Gwyn and Kate ap Harri set out to find a house in their home town of Thorne, South Yorkshire, all they wanted was a bigger garden and an open-plan living space. What they ended up with is something they could never have imagined. The properties they were interested in were out of their budget, so they were considering building their own place when the old local cinema, a relic from the Twenties, came on to the market. They realised renovating it could give them everything they were looking for.
‘Even though it was a bit mad, it was a calculated risk,’ says Gwyn. ‘We went to the planners twice before bidding on the cinema building, and I was confident we’d get permission to turn it into our family home.’ Regulations insisted they maintain the property’s distinctive exterior shell, so they asked friend and designer Jeremy Southgate for help. He came up with an ambitious design full of concrete and steel, and although Gwyn and Kate were unsure at first, they agreed to go ahead.
With the 'Gwindow' raised, the living space is linked to the garden, which used to be the 300sqm auditorium
The couple ripped up the original terrazzo floor, which reminded Kate of her old school WCs, and replaced it with modern polished concrete
The old cinema is now a Modernist-style house, with white render and timber cladding. An open-plan living area is connected to the garden, which once housed the auditorium, by a giant hydraulic window. The interior is inspired by London’s brutalist National Theatre, with its board-marked concrete; this pushed them over budget, but it was worth it for Gwyn. ‘You have to strive to make something beautiful by being courageous. You have to really celebrate what you’re doing,’ he says.
A large kitchen diner runs along the back of the house, with access to the garden through Gwyn's beloved hydraulic window
Original arched windows at the front of the property are a major feature of the family bathroom
Gwyn and Kate’s master bedroom with en suite is decorated in soft greys to mirror the concrete walls
Photography: Darren Chung